Andrew J. Hogan
Andrew Hogan received his doctorate in development studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before retirement, he was a faculty member at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, where he taught medical ethics, health policy and the social organization of medicine in the College of Human Medicine.
Dr. Hogan published more than five-dozen professional articles on health services research and health policy. He has published thirty works of fiction in the OASIS Journal (1st Prize, Fiction 2014), Hobo Pancakes, Subtopian Magazine, Twisted Dreams, Thick Jam, Grim Corps, Long Story Short, Defenestration, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, The Blue Guitar Magazine, Fabula Argentea, Mobius, Thrice, The Lorelei Signal, Colliers, Sandscript, and the Copperfield Review.
Kyholm Shipwreck Saved From Incognizance
By A. Jacques Houggen
The Århus Ferry
The Prinsesse Elisabeth’s horn proclaimed all-aboard; she would depart shortly. A ship so grand I had never seen before. Commissioned only last March as the car ferry between Kalundborg and Århus, her sleek 103-meter black hull crowned with three gleaming white passenger decks could propel 1,500 passengers and 120 cars across the dark waters of the Samsø Straits at 17 knots. This modern ship boasted conveniences almost unimaginable to me, but routinely expected by the prosperous Danish middle class of the mid-1960s.
Most welcomed for me was the special wheelchair section. The attendant rolled me into the small open area on the starboard side of the top deck. Automobiles loaded onto the Prinsesse Elisabeth from the aft lower deck, so I had a clear, crisp mid-April view of the south shore of Århus Bay, with Samsø Island in the distance. A moment later, an old woman was wheeled in next to me.
“You’re off to Kalundborg?” I said, in my shaky four-hundred-year-old voice.
“Copenhagen,” she said, equally weakly, “to see my great-great-great-great
granddaughter. She is the housekeeper for an eccentric American writer there.”
The ferry’s horn sounded three long blasts for departure, and the Prinsesse Elisabeth glided into Århus Bay like a giant sea serpent. The attendant asked the lady and me if we needed blankets.
“No,” we answered at the same time, and then laughed.
“I am going to Helsingor, back to my castle,” I said.
“Ah, you’re a prince. I always wanted to meet a prince, but now I’m so old not even a frog would deign to kiss me,” she said.
I laughed. “I am no prince, madam, and compared to me, you’re but a young kitten. I’m the retired game warden at Kronborg Castle; my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson now has the honor of that post.”
A breeze rushed in through the forward windows, chilling both of us. I signaled the attendant, who was already coming back with blankets; he recognized us as first-time travelers on the Prinsesse Elisabeth.
What Is A Poet?
The Prinsesse Elisabeth skimmed across Århus Bay. To the starboard the ancient travelers spied the grasslands of Issehoved on the northern tip of Samsø Island.
Kierkegaard stopped at Samsø Island on his return from Berlin in spring of 1843. He walked the beach from Nordby up to Issehoved Point, obsessing over his two failed infatuations, Regine and Schelling. In his diary he wrote, “What is a poet? An unhappy man who conceals profound anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so fashioned that when sighs and groans pass over them they sound like beautiful music.”
“I am called Senta,” she said. “What are you called?”
“I am called Brede,” I said.
“You are Danish?” Senta said.
“Yes, and you?” I said.
“German, from Ingolstadt. I was a cook there for many years,” Senta said.
“Ah, for a grand family, I’d guess, hence your interest in princes,” I said.
“Well, let’s just say, a well known family,” Senta said, lowering her eyes from my gaze.
“I know that look,” I said. “I too served a family more infamous than famous.”
“How so? I’ve never heard of an infamy connected with Kronborg Castle,” Senta said.
“King Frederick II changed its name when he remodeled the castle as the Renaissance Palace now called Kronborg,” I said. “My liege’s grandfather, Erik of Pomeriana, built the original castle and called it Elsinore.”
“People always think I lived in a castle; it’s because of the damn movie. We had a large house, not far from the university. The doctor did all of his experiments in the laboratory at the university,” Senta said.
“What kind of experiments?” I said.
Senta hesitated at first. “He assembled human beings from dead body parts.”
“You don’t mean…?”
“Yes, but it wasn’t anything like the movie, I assure you,” Senta said.
“It is the same for me,” I said. “The play was filled with characters named Claudius, Marcello, Barnardo, Polonius, Ophelia…. No one in 16th century Denmark had names like that.”
“You don’t mean…?”
“Yes, but as you said, art did not mirror life,” I said.
The Grasslands of Issehoved
Just before noon on Moving Day of April 1843, Kierkegaard disembarks from the Hov Ferry onto the pier in the Saelvig Harbor of Samsø Island. The coach is waiting to take him to the cottage he has rented a little east of Nordby. Kierkegaard wanders the beaches, tortured by the enigma of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. How could the murder of an innocent be justified?
“It’s strange, I never speak to anyone about my time in the doctor’s household,” Senta said.
“I know. I too am cursed by the proximity to fame. What’s more, it’s becoming worse, don’t you think?” I said.
“Much worse! A hundred years ago, people would ask about how the doctor’s mother dealt with the murder of her adopted daughter and the shame of her son. Was the family able to regain its social position? Did they change their names to hide their relation?” Senta said. “Today they will ask if I had sex with the doctor, or worse, with the monster.”
“I suffer the same insults. They insist my liege had an Oedipus complex, that he lusted for his mother and was overcome by jealousy when she married Fengi…”
“Fengi?” Senta said.
“The one called Claudius in the play,” I said. “Geruth never married Fengi after he killed Orvendil, and Amleth’s conspiracy against Fengi had the purpose to regain the throne, nothing more.”
Loss of the Graceful Curve
Eskild the Red encountered heavy seas on his return home to Elsinore with his party of twelve men and the five slaves he captured during raids in Danelaw and Dorestad. Eskild’s ship was larger than those his father sailed, but not as maneuverable. The design was changed to allow for more cargo; the stem post met the keel at an angle, making the transition from keel to stem angular where his father’s ships had a graceful curve. But greater cargo capacity came at the expense of seaworthiness. Eskild, along with nine of his men and three of the slaves, drowned in the violent April storm off Kyholm Island. Three of his men and two of the slaves swam to safety on the island, but the cargo was lost. Eskild’s name disappeared under the dark waters of the Samsø Straits, never memorialized on the bow of a ship, the escutcheon above a castle door or in warrior songs.
“How did you come to reach such a great age?” Senta said.
“Drinking poison. Can you believe it?” I said. “It was some sort of witch’s brew the nobles had prepared to use in their palace struggles. One drinks the poison and then, shortly after, the antidote, each time adding decades to one’s life. When Prince Amleth was murdered, I took his supply of both back to my cottage.”
“And you still use it now?” Senta said.
“I used it very sparingly and still have a small supply, but I think I shall dispose of the rest when I return home to Elsinore.”
“You did not share this with your children?” Senta said.
“No,” I was ashamed to admit.
Shipping News, 15 April 1997
DSB Scandlines announced the replacement of its car ferry, the Prinsesse Elisabeth, with a new vessel, the Hamlet. Company president, Dagmar Pomeriana, explained the replacement, “The Prinsesse Elisabeth was built for a time when travelers relied much more on common carrier transportation. While the Prinsesse Elisabeth is nearly as large as the Hamlet, the Hamlet carries 50% fewer passengers but twice as many automobiles. We also expect tourists to be more interested in traveling on a ferry named after a famous person, rather than for an obscure member of the Danish royal family.”
“You, madam, also seem to have achieved a great age, not so great as mine, but nonetheless much beyond the norm,” I said.
“This is true. I have lived more than two hundred years now,” Senta said. “I was accidentally shocked by a stray discharge from the doctor’s machine one time I brought his supper to the laboratory. However, I was quite old, nearly 100 years, before I fully understood what had happened to me. I too am considering when such a long life becomes more of a burden than a blessing.”
I hesitated, wrestling with a personal question. “Did you explain to your children, or grandchildren, or great grandchildren how you attained such a long life?”
“Do you mean did I tell them how they might have used the doctor’s machine to extend their lives?” Senta said.
“No, like you I withheld this information,” Senta said. “You had to take the poison-antidote combination on a regular basis, did you not?”
“I first took the potions right after Amleth’s death,” I said. “I thought to protect myself in the turmoil of the Norwegians taking over the Danish throne. After 27 years I began to feel the effects of aging. I was considering whether to take them again when my son died. I took the potions to help my grandson reach maturity. The same happened again when my grandson died. And so on for six more generations.”
“You didn’t feel guilty about using it for yourself, rather than sharing with your children?” Senta said.
“No, the supply was finite,” I said. “I could think of no justification for giving it to just one child – I had five still living. I believed that my long experience was a greater benefit to my children and grandchildren than a one-time extension of their lives.”
“And were you satisfied that you were able to help your many descendents over the last 400 years with the challenges they faced in their lives?” Senta said.
“Oh yes, of course,” I said.
She saw the sadness in my eyes and knew I was lying. We both had become useless family relics, locked into our own obsolete pasts, weighed down by the attitudes and prejudices we have grown up with. Any advice we might have given our grandchildren or great grandchildren would have been irrelevant at best and injurious at worst.
“In your case, the machine might have helped all of your children and grandchildren without depleting itself,” I said.
“True,” Senta said, acting a bit threatened by the observation. “But I had seen the horrible effects of using the machine on those close to the doctor. I feared I would visit the same curse on my family. I was ashamed to have benefited from such a terrible tragedy.”
The Monster Speaks for Itself
“Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding. I was nourished with high thoughts of honour and devotion. But now crime has degraded me beneath the meanest animal… When I run over the frightful catalogue of my sins, I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone. You, who call Frankenstein your friend, seem to have a knowledge of my crimes and his misfortunes. But in the detail which he gave you of them he could not sum up the hours and months of misery which I endured wasting in impotent passions. For while I destroyed his hopes, I did not satisfy my own desires. They were forever ardent and craving; still I desired love and fellowship, and I was still spurned. Was there no injustice in this?”
“Is it the infamy of the doctor’s behavior that burdens you?” I said.
“Not really,” Senta said. “Most people think, from the old movies, that the doctor was a crazed scientist. Actually, he was brilliant but morally weak. He created the monster but then didn’t know how to care for it. The monster killed his brother, and the doctor let my friend, his housekeeper Justine Mortiz, take the blame. She was hanged.”
“It’s always the way, making excuses and passing off the blame to others,” I said. “People don’t understand how distressing, even dangerous, an association with famous people can be.”
“True, and in the end, everyone involved with the doctor was dead: himself, his brother, his best friend, his wife, and, of course, Justine,” Senta said. “Even the monster.”
“So too with me, the Prince set in motion events that killed his mother, his lover, his friend, his subordinates, and the uncle who killed his father, and the Danish throne was taken by the King of Norway,” I said.
“All because of some higher calling they thought they had,” Senta said.
“They thought they spoke directly to God,” I said.
The Land of Moriah
Tomorrow Kierkegaard leaves Samsø Island and returns to his life’s work in Copenhagen. Tonight he walks the beach in moonlight so bright he is able to wander all the way down the Lilleøre strand; Kyholm Island lies like a slumbering sea serpent adrift in the Samsø straits to his northeast. The biblical verse haunts his memory, “And God tempted Abraham, saying to him: take now thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” Kierkegaard debates with himself, “But Abraham had faith. He prayed not for mercy and that he might prevail upon the Lord; it was only when just retribution was to be visited upon Sodom and Gomorrah that Abraham ventured to beseech Him for mercy.”
Uncovering the Shipwreck on Kyholm Island
From the Prinsesse Elisabeth, Senta and I watched the students on the University of Wales maritime archeology research vessel exploring the Kyholm Island shipwreck.
“I wonder what they are fishing for?” I said.
Senta shrugged. “Maybe they are opening a new page of history?”
“Would that someone could tear our pages out of history,” I said.
Senta sighed in agreement, as the crane from the research ship raised a plank and a stringer with a knee attached.
Method of Indirect Communication
Kierkegaard undermined the reliance of the reader on the authority of the author, forcing her to take individual responsibility for knowing who she is and where she stands on the existential, ethical and religious issues raised in his texts. Kierkegaard problematized the authorial voice for the reader; he used pseudonyms, partitioned texts into prefaces, forewords, interludes, postscripts, appendices, assigned the "authorship" of parts of texts to different pseudonyms and invented further pseudonyms to be the editors or compilers of these pseudonymous writings. Sometimes Kierkegaard listed himself as author, sometimes as the person responsible for publication, sometimes not at all. This manipulation of narrative points of view, of contrasting works, and of contrasting internal partitions within individual works can disorient the reader. Kierkegaard's blending of irony and paradox with semantic opacity leaves the text a polished surface for the reader to discover her own reflection.
The Rosnǽs peninsula, the upper jaw of Kalundborg harbor, came into view. Senta and I saw a large number of migrating birds flocking along the coast of the Skanse Forest.
“This is one of the sunniest spots in all of Denmark,” I said.
On his way home to Copenhagen after the brief retreat on Samsø Island, Kierkegaard decides to rest overnight at the Kalundborg Cloister. The Cloister houses six separate religious orders. After supper and before vespers, Kierkegaard approaches the oldest member of each order, beginning with the Benedictines, and asks, “Is there any reason that could justify
a man killing his own son?”
“Is the son trying to harm the father, or someone else?” they ask.
“No, the son is completely innocent,” Kierkegaard replies.
“Then, it is wrong to kill the son,” they answer.
“But God asked Abraham to kill his innocent son, Isaac.”
“That’s different. God ordered Abraham to make a sacrifice, and in the end he let Abraham sacrifice a ram instead of his son,” they reply.
“But Abraham was fully prepared to commit this sin in God’s name.”
“Yes, but he didn’t,” they say.
“Suppose Abraham misunderstood?”
“God would be clear,” they say.
“Shouldn’t we expect the Devil to ask us to commit a mortal sin, not God?”
“You need more prayer, my son,” they say.
Later that night the fading moonlight streams through the window, casting a strange shape onto the floor of Kierkegaard’s cell in the Kalundborg Cloister. The shadow tells him, “The spirit that I had seen was the devil. The devil had power to assume a pleasing shape. Perhaps out of my weakness and my melancholy, as he was very potent with such spirits, the devil abused me to damn me. I thought I had grounds more relative than the word of a spirit. I thought, the play's the thing, wherein I'll catch the
conscience of the king, but I found that for which I sought and wrought ruin on all those around me.”
18 April 1967
I received a letter from Senta’s great granddaughter. She said her great grandmother had recently fallen ill and had asked me to visit her in Copenhagen. She manages an apartment house owned by the University of Copenhagen for visiting international scholars on Sankt Peders Strǽde. Senta was staying with her. The great granddaughter wrote Senta had wanted to return to Ingolstadt soon after she fell ill, but she was too weak to travel. Should I wish to come, she said, I should be prepared to find Senta in a disorganized state of mind. I knew this meant Senta had been talking about the doctor.
When my great grandson Lars and I arrived at the great granddaughter’s apartment house late in the afternoon, we found a man named Barthelme who was preparing to vacate the apartment the next day; the other tenants had already left, this being the traditional Danish Moving Day.
“We are looking for Senta Ungeheuer,” Lars said. “We heard that she was ill.” I nodded in agreement.
“Please come in,” Barthelme said. “I’m sorry to tell you, but Fru Ungeheuer died two days ago. Her great granddaughter left for Germany with her body today after the funeral. She’s to be buried next to her friend Justine in Ingolstadt.”
I whispered a response to Lars, who told Barthelme, “My great grandfather says he is sorry we were too late.”
“Can I tell her who was asking about her great grandmother?” Barthelme said.
“I was her only real friend,” I said so softly that my great grandson had to repeat it.
Lars went on to explain, “They met on the Århus ferry when Fru Senta came here last year. He invited her to visit him at Kronborg castle, but she never came.”
Barthelme noticed I was carrying a strange-looking wooden box. “Was that a present to Fru Senta?”
“No, these are some potions I thought might help her,” I whispered.
“She did not suffer long,” Barthelme said. “She was in the hospital less than a day.”
“I pray for the same,” I whispered to Lars.
“She is at peace now,” Lars said, and we excused ourselves.
The Ghost of Skindergade 38
That night, Barthelme made the final revisions to his story about Robert Kennedy being saved from drowning. The ghost of Søren Kierkegaard passed by Barthelme’s apartment, as it did every Moving Day on its way back to his final residence, around the corner from the University of Copenhagen.
Next morning, the taxi took Barthelme to the airport for the flight back to New York. The Pan Am jet headed northeast out of Copenhagen airport over Kyholm Island, where the students of the University of Wales maritime archeology research program, on their tea break, watched the silvery Boeing 707 glide by overhead.
Shipping News, 16 April 2002
The former DSB Scandlines ferry Prinsesse Elisabeth was last used in Danish waters on the Helsingor-Helsingborg route in the mid-1990s, after which she was bought by the German Harms-Group in 1998. Some changes were made, and she was renamed Hinrich Wilhelm Kopf and began trading on the Elbe-Fähre route in 2000 together with ex-Danish ferry Jochen Steffen (the Prinsesse Elisabeth’s older sister, Prinsesse Anne-Marie). Despite plans to attract vehicle traffic, the company suffered severe losses and the route closed in March 2002 after only two years operation. These two veterans are now laid up in a corner of Bremerhaven harbor awaiting a further lease on life.
 The special day of the year when people renting houses or land in Denmark moved from their previous tenancy to a new one. An ordinance of July 1, 1799 fixed moving day (with the exception of Easter week) on the third Tuesday in April and October.
 Frankenstein, September 12th, Shelley, M.
 Plagiarized from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.